Like most things, a well-oiled machine runs better than a grimy one. Solar panels are no different; a clean solar panel system runs better and will produce more energy than a dirty system.
Rainfall will clean off dust buildup on tilted solar panels, but anything more will require you to manually clean your panels using soapy water and a soft sponge. You can also use a hose or a leaf blower to clean off small debris. Solar panels should be deep cleaned 2-4 times a year.
What are the best ways to clean your solar panels? Is there anything you should or shouldn’t do?
Cleaning solar panels
So why should you clean your panels? A little bit of dust really can’t make that big of a difference, can it? Surely it can’t block that much sunlight.
“A test done by one company found the amount the efficiency is lowered is minute – maybe 5 per cent or less. And, with a typical 5 kW system, this might equate to about $20 of loss in your energy bill. Another company found that a thorough clean made the panels 3.5 per cent more efficient.”Source
If you are like me, then you want to save as much money as possible. That might even be the reason you purchased solar panels–to save money on your electricity bills. No matter if you are frugal at heart or a total spender, it is worth it to clean off your solar panels.
Per quarter of the year, you could be losing quite a bit of energy due to not cleaning your system.
- Year 1, Quarter 1: 5% Energy Loss
- Year 1, Quarter 2: 10% Energy Loss
- Year 1, Quarter 3: 15% Energy Loss
- Year 1, Quarter 4: 20% Energy Loss
- Year 2, Quarter 1: 25% Energy Loss
- Year 2, Quarter 2: 30% Energy Loss
- Year 2, Quarter 3: 35% Energy Loss
- Year 2, Quarter 4: 35% Energy Loss
Rain and dust
Most solar panels are tilted, and the great part about tilted solar panels is that they get cleaned off by rainfall pretty thoroughly. Much like how your car gets a little bath when it rains, your solar panels will be clear of dust after a storm. However, much like your car, the rain only does so much when there is more than a little dust on your panels.
You also might live in an area that gets plenty of sunshine but little rain. While that might be great for the amount of sunlight your solar panel system is receiving, it isn’t the best when it comes to cleaning it. A lot of areas with hotter climates and extra sunlight are also dry with lots of dust.
A little dust won’t hurt your system, and a lot of dust really shouldn’t be bad for your solar panels either, but dust will block out sunlight, and it will make your system less productive.
So, if you live in an area with lots of rain, congratulations! You most likely won’t need to clean your panels very often. But, if you live in an area with lots of dust and little rain, you will need to clean your panels manually.
Soapy water and a soft sponge
The best way to clean off your solar panels is to use a bucket filled with soapy water and a sponge to scrub with. The water should be lukewarm to prevent damage to the glass. Hot water in the winter will crack the glass, and cold water in the summer can do the same.
You also need to make sure that the sponge you are using is soft. Hard bristles will scratch the surface of your solar panels and cause damage, which is the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
Soapy water and a soft sponge is a great way to clean off messes such as bird poop from your panels. Unlike dust, which only affects your solar panel productivity a little, bird poop completely blocks out sunlight, and will make your system much less efficient. If you live in an area with an excessive amount of birds and bird poop, you might need to clean your solar panels frequently.
Hose or leaf blower
Again, if you live in an area with a lot of rain, you will not need to do much to clean dust off of your system. But if you live in an area with a lot of dust and little rain, then there are easy ways to clear the dust off of your panels.
You can use your garden hose to spray down your solar panels. This simulates rainfall and will rinse off light dust. If you would rather save water, then you can also use a leaf blower to clean off unwanted dust. A leaf blower works, but it can be tricky to use if your panels are up high. If you have a cordless leaf blower, then all you need to do is get it up onto the roof with you, but if your leaf blower requires a cord, then you will need to make sure you have extention cords long enough to reach from the outlet to to the roof/solar panels.
When cleaning your solar panels, it is best to do so from the ground if you can. You can purchase long-handled tools that will reach to your panels if they are on your roof. Often, you can purchase a car squeegee with a soft sponge and a long handle to use to clean your solar panels.
If you cannot clean your solar panels from the ground, then make sure you take precautions when cleaning on the roof. It is best to wear a harness with a rope attached to something sturdy in case you slip or fall.
Also, make sure that your ladder is completely stable before using it to climb onto the roof. It is best to have a partner at the base of the ladder to hold it steady while you climb.
You can also hire a professional to clean your solar panels. Professionals will have the proper equipment to make sure that the job is done well and safely.